Alex Murdaugh’s attorneys say son Buster’s pleas wouldn’t have made difference in double life sentencing
Attorneys for convicted family killer Alex Murdaugh have explained why they decided against having his son plead for leniency during his sentencing.
Defence attorneys Jim Griffin and Dick Harpootlian held a feisty press conference outside Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina, on Friday after their client was sentenced to two life sentences by Judge Clifton Newman. They vowed to fight the murder conviction but said that the sentencing was expected.
“We could have had Mother Teresa up there speaking on behalf of Alex at sentencing, but he was getting a double life sentence. That was expected,” attorney Jim Griffin told reporters outside the court, per Fox News.
“Judge Newman, he is a very stringent punisher when it comes to crimes and sentences. That was never in dispute.”
Mr Griffin added that the defence did not want to put Murdaugh’s only surviving son Buster through unnecessary trauma after he experienced “more than anybody that we can imagine has ever been through.”
Buster testified for the defence and was at the gallery every day, with reports emerging that his behaviour prompted warnings by Judge Newman.
Footage from the courtroom showed Buster apparently flipping the bird as he stared down the witness. Sources also told FITS News that when Buster was asked to move to the back of the courtroom, he allegedly kicked over a water bottle in anger.
Murdaugh twice proclaimed his innocence in the 2021 murders of his wife Maggie and son Paul during the sentencing. The unanimous verdict was reached after a dramatic six-week “trial of the century” in a sprawling and scandalous case that has enthralled the nation for almost two years.
It took jurors less than three hours to find Murdaugh guilty of the shootings on the family’s 1,700-acre Moselle hunting estate on 7 June 2021.
The defence also said they did not regret having Murdaugh take the stand on his own defence as they had no other option because he “had been made out to be a monster who stole from children and crippled people,” by prosecutors.
Murdaugh confessed to stealing millions from clients at his law firm but largely blamed it on his opioid addiction. His legal team said on Friday that Judge Newman had taken an “erroneous decision” by allowing the jury to hear Murdaugh’s financial scandals.
Mr Griffin also noted that Murdaugh’s family members still believe in his innocence.
“He had to take the stand to explain the kennel video, the lie if you will. But his credibility had been stripped away by the financial misdeeds,” defence attorney Dick Harpootlian said.
“There was a lot of effort by the state to convince the family that Alex is a murderer,” Mr Griffin added. “After six weeks of trial, they came away more convinced that he did not do this, and they steadfastly are in his camp and support him. That’s where they stand.”
The court was expecting to hear victim impact statements but prosecutor Mr Waters revealed that none of the victims wished to speak at this time. Mr Waters called Murdaugh a cunning manipulator and somebody who “placed himself above all others” and had violated the trust of his loved ones.
While he gave Murdaugh the chance to finally tell the truth once and for all, the judge admitted he “would not expect a confession of any kind”. The judge admonished Murdaugh for continuing with his lies in the courtroom – after he took the stand, changed his alibi and continued to deny killing his wife and son.
But the disgraced attorney and serial liar reiterated his statement of innocence.
“I’m innocent. I would never hurt my wife Maggie and I would never hurt my son PawPaw,” he told the court.
Mr Waters said that Maggie and Paul “like everyone else were unaware of who he really was... no one knew who he really was and that’s chilling”.
Over the course of the investigation and the trial, the lead prosecutor said he had discovered who the real Alex Murdaugh really was.
“I’ve looked in his eyes. He liked to stare me down as he walked by me during this trial. And I could see the real Alex Murdaugh,” he said.
Prosecutors said that Murdaugh killed his wife and son to distract from his string of financial crimes – at a time when his multi-million-dollar fraud scheme was on the brink of being exposed. Jurors were told that on the day of the murders, Murdaugh was confronted by his law firm CFO about missing money that he had stolen.
Three days after the murders, a hearing was also slated to take place in a lawsuit over a fatal boat crash Paul was involved in.
Then, on 4 September 2021 – one day after he was ousted by his law firm for stealing funds – Murdaugh claimed he was the victim of a drive-by shooting.
He kept up the story for days, with jurors being shown a police sketch of an imaginary man he claimed ambushed him.
Days later, he confessed that he had orchestrated the plot claiming he had asked his alleged drug dealer and distant cousin Curtis Eddie Smith to shoot him in the head so his surviving son Buster would get a $12m life insurance windfall.
As well as the boat crash case, the fraud scheme and the botched hitman plot, there are at least two other unexplained deaths with some tie to Murdaugh.
Days on from the murders, an investigation was reopened into the 2015 death of Stephen Smith, who was found dead in the middle of the road in Hampton County.
The openly gay 19-year-old had suffered blunt force trauma to the head and his death was officially ruled a hit-and-run. But the victim’s family have long doubted this version of events, with the Murdaugh name cropping up in several police tips and community rumours.
An investigation was also reopened into another mystery death connected to the Murdaugh family – that of their longtime housekeeper Gloria Satterfield.
She died in 2018 in a mystery trip and fall accident at the family home. Murdaugh then allegedly stole around $4m in a wrongful death settlement from her sons.
Murdaugh is now also facing around 100 charges over the multi-million-dollar fraud scheme and roadside shooting cases.